back to article Giant Facebook SOLAR LASER DRONE to FEED interwebs into YOUR FACE

Facebook's bonkers dream of beaming internet access to remote corners of the globe has taken yet another step – or perhaps that should be flight – closer to reality with its new flying laser drone. Engineers working for the free content ad network unveiled a massive Aquila autonomous drone, which is fitted with a laser …

  1. P. Lee

    I so torn

    Yay!

    but

    Oh No!

    --

    Anyone know how good a laser is going to be through clouds?

    1. TheNix

      Re: I so torn

      Yeah, that clouds thing had me wondering, too.

      Bringing the thing to the UK to test it should settle that pretty quickly, though.

    2. Bob H

      Re: I so torn

      Is there much in the way of cloud above 40,000 ft? Probably very managable, also remembering that the estimated 3bn people who don't have internet access are generally located around the central belt of the earth and in many of those countries the weather is quite consistent.

      1. dotdavid

        Re: I so torn

        "Is there much in the way of cloud above 40,000 ft"

        Surely the problem is the clouds between the drone and the houses, which normally are at a somewhat lower altitude?

        1. Bob H

          Re: I so torn

          They specifically say the lasers are used for interconnection between the drones at 10Gbps, so they are backhaul not the primary link. I think the implications I have seen are that user links would be radio wireless.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I so torn

            The article says "All the drone-to-drone and drone-to-station communications will be carried out by lasers beams"

            Perhaps infra-red lasers can penetrate clouds?

            I wonder how many birds/people/amateur astronomers pointing their telescopes in an unfortunate direction will be blinded by them?

            1. mosw

              Re: I so torn

              I would assume the drone to drone communication would serve as a backup for the drone to ground optical link. At that altitude the radio links to the end users should work fine through clouds.

            2. mosw

              Re: I so torn

              Also, even if the lasers are powerful enough to blind someone, you would have to be located at the ground station to be hit by the beam on the ground. Probably standing on that dime they talk about.

            3. Bob H

              Re: I so torn

              You wouldn't/couldn't use optical communications to provide the links to each customer because you'd need thousands of separate beams. The only ground link laser can avoid clouds by relaying through an adjacent drone that isn't blocked by cloud. If the entire geography is blocked then you can always use wireless as a backup to provide resilience.

  2. ashdav
    Mushroom

    This will not end well

    Title says it all

  3. pompurin

    It has benefits

    I can see these having a use in disaster relief. Most communications tend to be poor after earthquakes or typhoons and this has the potential to provide a life line to more rural areas.

    It's easy to have a dig at Zuckerberg on here but this is quite a feat of engineering and it looks likely he will actually deliver it.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: It has benefits

      You might be right but power on the ground is usually a big problem during a disaster and not many places have a reliable UPS that can run more than a day. Contacting any kind of emergency services is also an issue. I would hope that they have a plan for this....

      On the other hand, if he's only feeding his Internet.org or FB, then there's a problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It has benefits

        Luckily diesel generators are quite readily available in even the most remote of areas and work fine even after an earthquake. Most disaster relief organisations can lay their hands on quite a few to fly out where needed.

        1. Rick Brasche

          even better

          every gasoline powered vehicle is a 12V generator. Even a little 2 stroke 50cc can have 12v tapped off it with enough current to charge a cell phone or small radio. If the place has a village tractor, then there's enough power for emergency use.

  4. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Tethered Drones as communications relay platforms

    There are some folks selling tethered drones for the usual video surveillance.

    It seems like there should be a ready market for cheap and cheerful tethered drones acting like communications towers. e.g. Internet to villages.

    Power supply on ground, endless duration of course. DC-DC converters to increase voltage on the 2-conductor tether cable, to reduce voltage drop. A simple drone, tethered, altitude about several hundred feet up. A heading control system, perhaps using a magnetic compass sensor, to keep vehicle antenna aligned, perhaps a moderately high gain antenna, not too high gain, picking up a network connection from perhaps about 25km away, and then relaying it down. A simple communications package. All powered by the tether.

    This concept would be a fairly quick and cheap way to squirt communications links over moderately long distances over modest hills. Distant source ground station can employ a very high gain dish.

    Open issues:

    Power failure, perhaps a battery on standby, and GPS to guide it down. Tether might be commanded to spool in.

    Lightning. Shielded tether, lightning probe above drone. Plenty of hardening of active circuits.

    Just a concept...

    1. mathew42

      Re: Tethered Drones as communications relay platforms

      One advantage of Zuckberg's solution is that it flies at 60,000-90,000 feet well above most aircraft (especially passenger aircraft).

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Tethered Drones as communications relay platforms

        Zuckberg's solution is regional, which is good in its own way.

        The concept I've described is on the order of $2000, can be deployed in an hour, and would provide service to a village. Someone back at ISP HQ would need to install a 1m dish, aimed towards the village in question.

        The biggest imponderable is how to deal with lightning.Detection (LF) or prediction ('net) and retreat might be simplest. Worst case, install a replacement the next morning.

        Perhaps a nearby sacrificial lightning diversion tethered drone could be installed. Nothing but the propellers, motors, DC-DC converter. It flies nearby, within stepped leader range, and is intended to be hit. Only $400 as it's so simple.

        Ideas, a dime a dozen.

  5. Fraggle850

    Fight!

    I wonder what effect the laser would have if it were to 'accidentally' get pointed at a Google balloon in some contested broadband deployment airspace?

    My money is on Zuck over Google - he's got lasers!

  6. graeme leggett

    name choice

    not to be confused with Lockheed MQM-105 Aquila. you don't want one of them overhead.

    Given its size, wouldn't naming it after one of the New World birds with a large wingspan such as Vultur gryphus make more sense.

  7. Not also known as SC

    At one time war advanced technology, then it was the space age. Now it's advertising?

  8. Kaltern
    Big Brother

    This is some scary shit.

    I can't imagine this is going to end well, as mentioned above, I can only see this as the beginning of the end of what little privacy we have left.

    Cynical? What do you expect from the last 10 years?

  9. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Interruptions?

    I can see that it will fly above commercial aircraft, but presumably that laser that connects it to the ground station passes through airspace used by aircraft, pigeons etc. How does it cope with interruptions? Or a Google balloon getting in the way?

    1. Bob H

      Re: Interruptions?

      Mesh networking between them and multiple resilient ground links with a satellite backup?

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Interruptions?

      Missing packets can be resent. That's built into the foundations of Internet Protocol, at least TCP.

      With UDP streaming, you'll get a glitch. And you'll get to see how long until the full video frames are sent. Some video encoding settings are so aggressive that the image would stay smeared out as difference frames (character's mouth wandering around the screen separately from his head) for as long as ten seconds.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Inside Facebook this is known as "The Alan Parsons Project"

    1. jonathan1
      Joke

      Preperation H!

  11. casaloco

    Drones with high-powered lasers on them...

    ...what could POSSIBLY go wrong?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Drones with high-powered lasers on them...

      I suppose if you can't get sharks or disgruntled sea bass then drones are the next best thing.

  12. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    That thing's well bolted down

    Absolute no chance of Google ninjas spiriting it a way in the night.

  13. kafantaris2
    Go

    Internet access is good for business -- and it is phone access as well.

    Internet access also means telephone access.

    No thanks to the FCC -- or anybody else -- Facebook and Google are making a dent in the cellular monopolies that are choking business growth.

  14. SigmundFraud

    So this is a SKY based NETwork.

    Interesting idea, where have I heard that before...

  15. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    it can stay focused on a dime from a distance of ten or more miles away, we're told. This will enable the drones to pass information ... to ground stations.

    So the drone spots coins on the ground, then sends messages back to the ground station telling somebody to go and pick them up. Impressive, but it doesn't sound like much of a revenue stream.

  16. s5PGmU
    Go

    Lasers...

    Still not the sharks we were looking for, but close enough.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    showing the internet that pays the most

    and fits the company line, everything else "experimented" or buried underneath the paid for political and social "content".

    this is as "good" for the world as having Coca Cola solve drought in sub saharan Africa by shipping in megagallons of sugary carbonated soda.

  18. YetAnotherLocksmith Bronze badge

    So the UK gets it first?

    That, in itself, is a nice first.

    Does this mean that BT will be investing in anti-aircraft "monopoly protection missiles"? Or just the usual lawyers?

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